Fatima lives on her own with two daughters to support: 15-year old Souad, a teenager in revolt, and 18-year old Nesrine, who is starting medical school. Fatima speaks French poorly and is ...
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Fatima lives on her own with two daughters to support: 15-year old Souad, a teenager in revolt, and 18-year old Nesrine, who is starting medical school. Fatima speaks French poorly and is constantly frustrated by her daily interactions with her daughters. Her pride and joy, they are also a source of worry. To ensure the best possible future for them, she works odd hours as a cleaning woman. One day, she takes a fall on the stairs. On leave, Fatima begins to write to her daughters in Arabic that which she has never been able to express in French.Written by
"How can you talk to your mother or father if you don't know their language?"
OK solid film, interesting enough, excellent topic, wonderful script, realistic and entertaining scenes, beautifully connected and told storyline.
Except the acting. Excluding older sister Nesrine. I relate to her SO much and everything you see her say/experience/do, and the actress played the role rather modestly but then her smile and crying is superb. Believable, though her role was rather limited. She basically deals with the identity struggles as a nonwhite woman emerging in a society that praises women for their looks and class, especially chic French cities like the one she dwells in. All while balancing an increasingly dysfunctional household, stressful coursework ( in a subject the director shows she is massively outnumbered in), social pressures, and poverty. And it doesn't help that people turn her down for an apartment so much. And she doesn't seem to be working. I like the role more than the actress but she was good.
But the mother and younger sister Souad need help in the acting department; the mother took this film for a high school production, particularly in a scene where she got hurt; people have died in the way she got hurt. Yet instead of wailing in pain and for help she says her words like, "ah...ahhhh..." No emotions, anything, and it all seems contrived. There's one scene where she is opening up to someone in Arabic and it literally looks like she's reading off cue cards, you will see. And then Souad doesn't move anything on her face for the entire movie. Even when she yells. But it didn't deter me from the film/didn't put me off from finishing it. Because everything else is too grasping.
OK the film is about Moroccan immigrants in France: the dad is a manual labourer, and the mother has to clean for a living under curt supervisors that always happen to be female in this movie; this alludes to the fact that male immigrants of colour might have to resort to lowly work at first, and that certain white women can belittle women of colour, including immigrants, through their treatment towards them, especially as their bosses. It was almost uncomfortable to see how her bosses spoke to her, and it's kind of impossible to not see it in a racial way now. This separation between class, race, culture and language rubs off on their 1st- generation daughters' self esteem; Souad is a rebellious high school student and Nesrine is a studious university student. So Souad has a more modern, Eff You approach to this division, and Nesrine has a more old-school Little Engine That Could approach to her adversities. It's cute and pragmatic, how the director/writer balled these contrasting personalities and perspectives into one household and film. Now...I don't know if it's sensitivity to the reality of these social issues, or simply bias for stereotypes from the director....
There continues to be a lot of nuance in this film with race. I'm going to ignore the fact that the film decided to cast an actress that is a European looking girl for Souad's role, because the shoes she is filling are about an African-Muslim. The racial undertone is that staff at her school disrespects her, to be honest, though her reactions to them are out of control yet realistic. The implications are that the white staff are condescending to her and the African-Arab Phys Ed teacher only picks on her and her friend, though they are like him and the only two nonwhite students, and female. Well basically Souad just won't put up with that. The script never directly states, "they only pick on me because I'm not white, and my Phys Ed teacher is a traitor to humiliate us," it is implied, yet undeniably what the scene is about when you watch it. I've never experienced a scene like that in real life but race traitors do exist. And that's very good filmmaking: providing a vision and a concise script, and then stepping back without shying away from things as they still smoothly play out for the audience to interpret. Troubling themes that are made watchable and enjoyable here, to me. Just work on the acting. And a key element in French independent film seems to be a calm lack of music throughout the film so if you're new to it don't feel bored.
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